Two West Midlands restaurants which were subject to slavery raids by West Midlands police force have denied allegations of slavery and exploiting Eastern European workers.
Officers carried out raids at Ming Moon in Wolverhampton, Wing Wah in Coventry and Red Leaf in West Bromwich last month after acting on information which suggested staff were being brought into the UK and used as cheap labour. An associated address in Handsworth was also raided.
A total of 20 men “living in poor conditions” were interviewed, and a 49-year-old man and woman aged 45, both Slovakian, were arrested on suspicion of slavery offences by providing staff through a recruitment consultancy.
A statement issued by Wing Wah and Ming Moon said the restaurants “categorically deny any wrong doing” and are “fully cooperating with the police to resolve this as a matter of urgency”, adding the reputation of the owners and the staff of the restaurants has been “severely damaged” by the allegations.
It said 14 individuals from the Coventry restaurant and five from the Wolverhampton restaurant were taken by police to a police facility in Edgbaston, Birmingham, and following questioning were either returned to the respective restaurants or released to walk home later that day. Both Wing Wah and Ming Moon offer staff accommodation above the respective restaurants.
The statement said all restaurant employees caught up in the situation have been “shocked and traumatised” and that there is “absolutely no evidence” to substantiate the allegations, adding the two individuals arrested were not employees of Wing Wah nor Ming Moon.
The statement continued: “None had needed to be rescued and the police have not needed to take anyone to live in special safe houses. No further action has been taken by the police.
“All employees are paid at least the statutory minimum wage and any overtime is paid or taken as holiday in lieu. All employees have employment contracts covering employment conditions, rights, responsibilities and duties, including hours of work, holiday entitlement and notice period.”
Director and owner of Wing Wah, Ms Pui Ha Lam, also released a statement, which read: “I have no idea on what basis this warrant was issued. My husband and I have worked in the hospitality business for over a decade and my son attends a local Coventry junior school. We have a house locally but choose to stay on site a lot of the time for convenience, especially if we have a late or early shift.
“The police assumed that my family were victims too just because we were also living there with our staff… All my staff have now made statements confirming that we worked at the restaurant of our own free will and that all of them work there happily… We have not heard anything from the police since 22 August.”
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